In all the excitement of the leadership contest, I’ve just realised that I never got around to endorsing anyone for the Lib Dem mayoral candidate.
Since the deadline for ballots has been extended, there are possibly 2, maybe even 3 votes out there that haven’t been cast yet, so here goes.
It’s a total no-brainer: it has to be Brian Paddick. The latest Metropolitan Police debacle says it all really. In that case Paddick showed excellent judgement under pressure – in stark contrast to his then boss – and was vindicated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report earlier this year. He is the only candidate with actual experience of running a London-wide public authority and of the three has the best experience of London as a whole.
Chamali Fernando ran an excellent campaign and deeply impressed me. If the party doesn’t now groom her for a winnable or held Commons seat, it really has totally lost the plot. But while she would make a great candidate, I’m afraid to say I don’t have confidence in a relatively inexperienced
twenty-something person running London. The next time she stands for something as well, a word of advice: don’t ever use the term “unspun” to sell yourself (which thinking about it is itself an oxymoron). It’s like “no problem” in that it alerts people to a concept that may hitherto not have been in their minds.
And you certainly should not use the phrase “unspun” in the contest of claiming to be “able to empower individuals, break routine and stampede formality”. I don’t happen to know what most of that phrase means, but I’m pretty sure it’s not entirely unrelated to spin.
Back to Paddick, if I do have a word of complaint, it is his campaign. It was lacklustre. Partly, I have heard on the grapevine, that is because of the phoney election that wasn’t and the subsequent leadership contest. But even a month ago I was disappointed by the website, which was uninspired, and his manifesto, which was concerned with making him look like a pro-forma Lib Dem candidate clone.
This isn’t how we should be selling him. His single strongest asset is his gravitas and trustworthiness. His main opponents are both clowns, particularly the shock haired freak the Tories are putting up against him. This is a real opportunity to carve out a distinctive agenda. That simply won’t happen if we treat this campaign like one big Parliamentary by-election.
Interestingly, it looks unlikely that his opponents will be able to make much of his most controversial act as a copper: downgrading the Brixton police’s handling of cannabis possession. This policy was of course a success and lead to a national policy change which has also now been shown to be a success, but all things being equal that won’t stop our opponents from trying to make hay with it (see Gordon Brown’s announcement to reverse the downgrading policy earlier in the summer).
But will Boris be able to make much of it given his jolly, libertarian image? And can you imagine cuddly Ken suddenly playing the cannabis card? They would both alienate large sections of their supporter base.
Bottom line: we have a candidate who inspires trust and has meaningful experience. That should be our key message, not nonsense about ensuring that buses don’t arrive at bus stops three in a row.